Friday, May 31, 2013

Critérium du Dauphiné 2013 - Preview & Favorites

Critérium du Dauphiné 2013
There is now less than a month to the start of this year’s Tour de France and that means it’s the last time to test your legs against your rivals’ in competition. Most of the big Tour favorites will be in Critérium du Dauphiné this year and with a very hilly course, we should be in for a good show the next eight days.

Compared to last year’s edition, this one is much more about climbing than time trialing. It’s true there is a 32.5 km long time trial on stage four but the race won’t be won or lost here, that will happen in the final four days in the Alps with three uphill finishes.

Looking at the field, two riders stand out as the main favorites; Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Froome has been outstanding in all the stage races he has ridden since February, while Contador only has been focusing on the Tour and therefore haven’t performed as well as the previous years. Contador normally never peaks in Dauphine but with a different season plan, we should to see him stronger at this point than usually. Last year Bradley Wiggins won Dauphiné before winning the Tour overall and I think Chris Froome will be eager to repeat his teammate’s performance this time. Froome can count on excellent support from Richie Porte - another GC contender - Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

I see Chris Froome and Alberto Contador a level above the rest in this race but its clear they are both not in tip-top condition yet and it wouldn’t be the first time an outsider won Dauphiné. There are a lot of good riders in the race this year to give you a better overview, I have the divided the favorites in to the following categories:

Strong winner candidates: Chris Froome & Alberto Contador
Strong podium contenders: Samuel Sanchez, Richie Porte & Andrew Talansky
Top5 contenders: Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Damiano Cunego & Jurgen van den Broeck.

Outside of these three categories we’ll find riders like; Sylvain Chavanel, Jakob Fuglsang, Wout Poels, Laurens Ten Dam, Pierre Rolland, Michal Kwiatkowski etc. etc.

Personally, I expect a lot from Samuel Sanchez. For the first time in many years, he failed to deliver in a Grand Tour when he only ended 12th overall in the Giro d’Italia. He came close to a stage win on the hilly time trial but he wasn’t as strong as expected in the last week. The last couple of years we’ve seen riders with failed Giro expectations rise and win in Dauphiné and I think Samu will do just that. In 2011, Purito used his good shape from the Giro to win two stages and last year his teammate Dani Moreno did the same. I see many good stages for Samuel Sanchez in this year’s Dauphiné and I would be surprised not to see him win at least one of them.

Remember, there are no bonus seconds on the line in Critérium du Dauphiné this year so the climbers really need to distance their rivals when ever they can if they lose too much time in the time trial.

Many of you have been asking about stage previews for Dauphiné and I’m happy to announce that there will be daily previews during the race. Just like earlier this year, I’ve teamed up with INRNG to deliver daily stage previews of both Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse. INRGN will be writing for Dauphiné and I will be doing the Tour de Suisse previews. First one should be online Saturday evening.

For live race coverage, check out

Monday, May 27, 2013

Time off - Back soon

After a hectic Giro d'Italia, it's now time for a few days off.

Stay tuned for Previews of the up-coming World Tour races.

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 21 Preview & Favorites

It’s time for the last stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia and everything but another bunch sprint will be a huge surprise. Mark Cavendish lost the Red Jersey to Vincenzo Nibali on Stage 20 and that means he needs a top performance if he wants to take it back on the last day. Cavendish has been levels above his rivals so far and it seems that only bad luck can take this stage win away from him.

Still, the final laps of 4.2 km in Brescia are very tricky with a lot of sharp corners and with everybody wanting to win on the final day; it could easily end up with another big crash. Naturally it’s up to Quickstep to keep it together but don’t forget Cavendish is without leadout man Gert Steegmans, so he probably have to rely on youngster Matteo Trentin or get on the wheel of another train.

Nobody can match Cavendish’ kick in the final but if someone tries to open the sprint early, Cavendish might be in trouble without a leadout train. I personally think Mark Cavendish will win this one but with a tricky finish and no leadout, it won’t be as easy as earlier.

The final laps in Brescia. Click for larger view.
Cannondale are one of the few teams with all nine riders still in the race and they will be extra motivated for this stage. The team is based nearby and after being close a couple of times already, Elia Viviani now hopes to finally take a stage win in this year’s Giro d’Italia. I expect Cannondale to take the front on the final kilometers and I think Viviani will be very close again.

I have already said many times that it’s hard to pick a joker in this sprint field but since we haven’t seen much of him so far, I’ll pick Manuel Belletti. The Italian sprinter went down in the big crash on Stage 1 but he’s been near the top the last couple of sprints. Belletti has been good at getting on Cavendish’ wheel this season but for some reason he hasn’t been able to turn into a result. I’ve seen Belletti getting better and better in this Giro and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make Top3 in Brescia.

Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Top3 Pick: Elia Viviani
Joker: Manuel Belletti

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 21:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Friday, May 24, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 20 Preview & Favorites

Stage 19 got cancelled completely and that means this is the last chance to change the overall classification. Vincenzo Nibali seems sure to win this Giro d’Italia but the final two spots on the podium are still up for grab.

Unfortunately, this stage too has been modified a lot and the first three big mountains have all been cancelled due to the bad weather. This leaves us with a 210 km long stage with only the final 25 km are kept as planned. A strong morning break over the big climbs would have had a good chance of making it to the line but with this new profile it all comes down to the final climb up to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo.

The first 187.6 km aren’t very challenging but hopefully we will get to see fire some firework already on the first climb up to Passo Tre Croci. This category 2 climb has a steady 7% gradient all the 8 km to the top and if the morning break hasn’t already been caught, this is a good place to finally rail them back in. As I wrote in the preview for Stage 19, I would like to see Lampre take charge and play out Niemiec early on. If he attacks on Passo Tre Croci, it would force BMC and Sky to work hard and without a strong team, Evans would quickly be isolated.

There are about 7 km from the top of Passo Tre Croci to the final climb begins. It starts with a steep kilometer of 10.6% with parts of 18%. Then there is short descent before the final 3 km kicks up with an average (!) gradient of 12.4%. There are parts of nearly 20% with two kilometers to go and the tiny climbers like Sergio Henao, Carlos Betancur and Domenico Pozzovivo will have a big advantage here.

The only leader’s jersey still up for grab is the White Jersey and with only two seconds between Rafal Majka and Carlos Betancur, we should be in for a great show on this final climb. Majka seems to flying right now but these steep percentages surely favors Betancur more than the strong Pole. I would imagine Domenico Pozzovivo to attack first and make the other riders work for the stage win. If they then catch Pozzovivo, Betancur will be ready to counter. Just like we saw it on the stage Uran won earlier in the race.
The final 3 km of the stage.

Samuel Sanchez came close the other day and he's still chasing a stage win that will see him join the club of stage winners in all the three Grand Tours. The steep final part isn't really in Sanchez' favor but he does seem very strong right now and he's always good in the last week.

This being the last mountain stage of the race, I doubt a morning breakaway will make it. The fight for second and third place overall are still so close that every bonus second count and Betancur also knows that he is faster than Majka on the line. Even if Betancur can’t drop Majka on the climb, he can still outsprint him and the take bonus seconds he needs. 

Many odd things have already occurred in this Giro and of course, it’s not impossible a morning break will make it. Androni have been in all the major breaks in this Giro d’Italia and I would expect riders like Jackson Rodriguz and Miguel Angel Rubiano to try again. Franco Pellizotti still aims at Top10 overall and with nothing to lose I think he will try to attack early on Passo Tre Crocil.

Movistar have been extremely strong the last week and even though their most important task now is to secure Beñat Intxausti’s Top10 place, I’m sure they will try to take their fifth stage win. Eros Capecchi, José Herrada and Juan José Cobo are all good contenders for an early break and I think at least one of them will make it.

Last, I need to mention Team Colombia. They came to the Giro with high hopes for this final week but with all the big mountains being cancelled out, they haven’t really had a chance to show their strength. Darwin Atapuma is getting better and better and so is Fabio Duarte. The little Colombian have been attacking non-stop the last couple of days and I’m sure he will try again on this stage. Duarte is good on the steep percentages and together with Atapuma, Colombia have a dangerous duo for the final climb. Also, the Colombian Sports Minister, Andres Botero, will join the team for the final two stages and if the riders weren’t motivated enough already, this should give them the extra edge.

Favorites: Carlos Betancur & Domenico Pozzovivo
Top 3 Pick: Rafal Majka
Jokers: Fabio Duarte / Franco Pellizotti / José Herrada

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 20:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 19 Preview & Favorites

The stage has been cancelled!

Due to bad weather, yet another mountain stage has been modified. The Giro organizers had to cancel both Gavia and Stelvio and replace them with Passo del Tonale and Passo Castrin Hofmahdjoch.  These are not nearly as tough as Gavia and Stelvio but they will provide an early selection.

The stage starts with a short descent and then it’s time for Passo del Tonale. It’s only a category 2 climb but its 8.3 km have an average gradient of 7.5% and the riders chasing the KOM jersey will have to attack early. Stefano Pirazzi seems to have the competition under control but he can’t afford to miss the morning break and I expect him and Jackson Rodriguez, Robinson Chalapud and Giovanni Visconti to get away on Passo del Tonale.

Vincenzo Nibali destroyed the rest of the peloton on the uphill time trial and he now has his stage win in the bag. Of course he would like to take another one but I doubt he will use up his team just to chase down a morning breakaway. At this point in the Grand Tours, the riders just around Top10 normally try to attack from a far in order to move up a few spots. Thomas De Gendt did it last year and that almost gave him the overall win. I don’t think anybody can threaten Nibali in this race but the last two podium spots are definitely up for grab. Rigoberto Uran, Cadel Evans and Michele Scarponi will most likely wait to the final climb but it would be interesting to see Lampre send Przemyslaw Niemiec up the road early.

Niemiec asked Scarponi earlier this week what he would have to do in order to take the Pink Jersey and Scarponi told him that he should attack from a far and not just wait until the final kilometer. A Top5 place overall will be a big result for Niemiec but since Lampre have both Niemiec and Scarponi in Top5 right now, they should try something spectacular and at least get one rider on the podium.

Another strong Pole with his eyes on a stage win is Rafal Majka. Bjarne Riis had big plans for Majka for last year’s Giro d’Italia but due to a knee injury, Majka never got to start the race. This year, Majka is eager to show himself and after the best time trial of his career he is not 6th overall. Majka also took back the White Jersey from Carlos Betancur and even though he says it’s not a priority, I’m sure he will do everything in order to keep it. The big goal for Saxo-Tinkoff is still a stage win and I think Majka will give them one in these final two mountain stages. Rafal Majka is 6:45 min after Vincenzo Nibali so he won’t be the first rider Nibali starts chasing down. He will however be the first rider Carlos Betancur will counter. The White Jersey is Betancur’s biggest target this season and he is just two seconds after Majka before the stage. I expect a great dual between the two climbers on the final climb. A dual that very well could turn out to be a dual for the stage win as well.
Val Martello Martelltal - 22.4 km / 6.4% avg.

The final climb is 22.4 km long and it has an average of 6.4%. The first 6.5 km are steep with 8%. Then there is a short descent followed by 8 km uphill with 7% average. With 6 km to go the climb kicks up with 14% and this will be a good place to test the competition. Hereafter it’s ‘flat’ for about 5 km before the final 1.5 km kicks up with 14% towards the line. The steep hairpin turns will be great for an explosive rider like Betancur, so expect him to put a couple of strong attacks towards the line.

Movistar are having a great Giro d’Italia with four stage wins and the Pink Jersey and I wouldn’t be surprised if they took another one here. Eros Capecchi and José Herrada are great riders for an early breakaway, Capecchi earlier pointed to this stage as his favorite, and Juan José Cobo is also a good pick. Of course they will need some to protect Beñat Intxausti but a morning break without any of the three mentioned will surprise me.

It’s difficult to pick 1 favorite with so many strong riders so instead I’ll make two groups.

Favorites: Carlos Betancur / Rafal Majka / Vincenzo Nibali
Breakaway: Eros Capecchi / Fabio Duarte / Francesco Manuel Bongiorno

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 19:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 18 Preview & Favorites

It’s uncertain what the following two big mountain stages will look like so the GC riders need to take as much time as possible in this uphill time trial.

Many talk about this stage as a ‘mountain time trial’ but that isn’t really accurate. It’s uphill yes, but it’s nothing like the mountains time trials we have seen in the past on Plan de Corones or Alpe d’Huez. The first 1.5 km are flat and then the climb starts with 6.6% average for the following 7.5 km. From here on it’s almost flat for 5 km with a little descent and a short ascent and this is where time trial specialists will be able to gain a lot of time on the tiny climbers.

The final 6.4 km are uphill with an average gradient of about 7% and parts of 10% with 5 km to go. It’s important to have something left in the tank for this final part of the stage and this late in the race, I’m sure we will see some surprising results.

The big favorite for the stage win is Vincenzo Nibali. He has been the best rider in the mountains so far and generally the strongest rider in the race. He did great in the first long time trial when he took 4th place and without Wiggins, Nibali is the man to beat. Cadel Evans is another one of the contenders for the stage win but he if he couldn’t beat Nibali in a long ‘flat’ time trial, I don’t see him beating Nibali uphill either. Both Evans and Nibali have been out training on the course earlier this year and both agree that it’s going to be a high pace start of the climb. The riders with big engines who are good on the uphill parts will be able to do great in this time trial and I think Team Blanco will do well.

The Dutch team have been attacking non-stop the last couple of days and they really want that stage win that will save their Giro d’Italia. Robert Gesink was close the other day and so was Wilco Kelderman the day before that. Both Gesink and Kelderman are strong against the clock - especially with so many uphill kilometers - and together with Stef Clement, who took 5th place in the first time trial, they have three very strong contenders for the stage win.

My personal outsider for the win is Dario Cataldo. He started out great with the win in the team time trial but then he got sick. It took many days for Cataldo to get better but now he finally seems to be back at this best. He’s been good in the mountains the last couple of days helping out Uran and Henao but he’s also been able to save himself for this stage. Cataldo is the Italian Time Trial Champion and he will be eager to show off that jersey in the Giro. Winning may be too much to ask of Cataldo after his sickness but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did a great stage and made Top3. The favorites have been testing each other the last couple of days in horrible weather conditions and anyone who has been able to save some energy will have an advantage on this stage.

For other outsiders look to Ramunas Navardauskas and Tanel Kangert. Both are in the shape of their life and good against the clock. The same goes for Giovanni Visconti. He has already won two stage in this Giro d’Italia but that doesn’t mean he’s done winning. Visconti has never been better than right now and with his newfound strong mentality, he should have what it takes to win time trial soon. The last days’ impressive efforts will not favor him but he should be in for another good performance.

Favorite: Vincenzo Nibali
Top3 Pick: Cadel Evans
Jokers: Dario CataldoStef Clement / Ramunas Navardauskas

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 18:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 17 Preview & Favorites

First of all, congratulation to Beñat Intxausti on an amazing stage win. It looked good for our picks with Rodriguez, Herrada & Capecchi in the break but Katusha and Radioshack started to get protect their GC riders. Anyway, let’s move on to the stage in hand.

The final of Stage 17 is very similar to the one on Stage 16 but this time the first 192 km are pancake flat. With 21.4 km to go the day’s only climb, Crosara starts. It’s only a category 4 climb but like with Andrate (cat3) on Stage 16, the category means nothing. Crosara is 5,3 km long and the first 4 km have an average gradient of 8,1% with parts of 12%. On paper, this may look like a stage for Mark Cavendish but there are only 16 km to go from the top of Crosara and if the GC riders decide to test each other again, the sprinters can kiss this stage goodbye.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a morning break makes it all the way and that means we have to look to opportunistic riders once again. Vacansoleil-DCM don’t have a sponsor for the next season after both Vacansoleil & DCM recently decided not to renew their contracts. The Dutch team are good at hitting the right breaks and especially Marco Marcato will be motivated to do well on this stage. This is Marcato’s first Giro d’Italia and with the stage finish near his hometown, he will do everything he can in order to give his fans something to cheer for. Marco Marcato knows the Crosara climb better than most of the riders in the race and I’m sure he will show himself in the final.

There are only 16 km to go from the top of Crosara.
Another rider who will eager to show himself is Marco Canola. You might remember Canola from Stage 5, when he ended up alone in front on the last kilometer after the big crash. Canola didn’t have the strength to keep John Degenkolb behind him but he showed on Stage 13 that he copes well with the final climbs and with his fast finish, he could be a good outsider for the stage win.

Vini Fantini seemed to be in a perfect position on Stage 16 but despite having Di Luca and Rabottini in front, they ended up as the big losers after Santambrogio had an off day. Santambrogio lost 2:24 min and without teammate Oscar Gatto it would have been a lot more. Gatto chased like a possessed and if he has the same kind of legs on this stage, he will be very difficult to beat.

Once again, you can’t really talk about favorites so I’ll do like yesterday and leave you with the following riders as my picks:

Marco Marcato
Oscar Gatto
Marco Canola
Fabio Felline
Fabio Duarte

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 17:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Monday, May 20, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 16 Preview & Favorites

On paper, this looks like a good stage for another breakaway to make it all way. Giovanni Visconti managed to keep the favorites behind him on Stage 15 and despite a tough climb towards the end, I think a break will make it again.

The stage starts with a 12 km descent from Télégraphe before the riders take on Mont Cenis, this time from the side the descended on Stage 15. That means the climb is only 10 km long but it still has an average gradient of 7%. The race got neutralized on Mont Cenis last time but hopefully we will get to see attacks from the very beginning this time. Stefano Pirazzi & Giovanni Visconti now leads the fight for the blue KOM jersey and even though both must be tired from Sunday’s effort, they need to stay alert and maybe attack again. Actually, looking at the stage profile, this is another very good stage for Visconti. If he’s ready again, he could make it two in a row.

Team Colombia and Androni have been very active, especially in the mountains, and with both Jackson Rodriguez and Robinson Chalapud fighting for the KOM jersey, I would imagine them to ride aggressively again on this stage. Rodriguez hasn’t been getting much out of his efforts so far in the race but if he manages to get in the morning break, this could be his big day. He’s very strong uphill and also fast on the line in a reduced group.

After the top of Mont Cenis, it’s downhill for 25 km before a flat stretch of 120 km. With 23.3 km to go the last climb of the day, Andrate, starts. It’s only a category 3 climb,but its 6.2 km have an average gradient of 8% and parts of 13% halfway to the top. There are 17.5 km to go from the top of Andrate and after a technical descent, the last 8 km are flat towards the line. The last few kilometers are tricky with sharp turns and parts of paves, so a lonely rider will have a good chance of making it all the way with a small gap on the final kilometers.
Andrate. 6,2 km with an average gradient of 8%

As said in the beginning, I think this is another day for a breakaway. It’s difficult to pick a favorite for a stage like this one, but looking at the last few days in the mountains I see many of the Movistar riders with good legs. I’ve already mentioned José Herrada and Eros Capecchi a couple of times during this Giro d’Italia and I think this stage is perfect for both riders. Herrada has been attacking the last couple of days while Capecchi has been in the peloton looking after Beñat Intxausti. I’m sure both will try to get away on the Mont Cenis, and especially Capecchi will favor a technical descent before the line.

Team Blanco have launched ‘Plan B” after Robert Gesink lost his chances of a good overall place and they showed on Stage 15 that they are prepared to attack whenever they get the chance. Gesink, Kelderman and Garate all tried to get away on Galibier and I think it’s now time for Stef Clement to show the jersey. Clement has had a good Giro so far. He’s climbing very well and his fifth place in the time trial showed he’s in great shape. Blanco are eager to show their potential in the fight for a new sponsor and without a rider for the GC, Stef Clement can now try his luck on his own. It won’t be easy for him to drop strong climbers on Andrate but if he can hang on to the front, he can launch an attack on the flat part and then he’ll be difficult to catch.

Vini Fantini finally got their stage win with Mauro Santambrogio on Stage 14 and they will be eager to take another one. Danilo Di Luca is ‘only’ 14:44 minutes after Nibali in the GC and therefore I doubt the other teams will let him in the Top10 fight again with an early attack. Stefano Garzelli on the other hand is coming into shape and if he’s up for it, he could be a dangerous outsider for the stage win. The same goes for Oscar Gatto, even though I think the climbs are too tough for him. Still, should it all come down to the last climb, Di Luca is a good pick for the win.

There aren’t any favorites for stages like this, so instead of tipping ‘Favorite’ and ‘Top3’, I’ll leave you with these riders as my personal picks for the stage win.

Jackson Rodriguez
Eros Capecchi
Stef Clement
Stefano Garzelli

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 16:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Stage 14: The stage that disappeared - Video & Photos

Due to the bad weather, we only got to see the final 350 meters of yesterday’s Stage 14. Mauro Santambrogio won in front of Vincenzo Nibali who kept the Pink Jersey and un case you haven’t seen it yet, here are the video highlights and photos from the finish line.

Betancur, cold and disappointed after yet another podium spot.

Scarponi lost time again. Reaching the podium won't be easy.

The podium is also gone for Gesink. He lost 4 min in the rain.

Surrounded by 6 teammates, Cavendish made it to the line.
The Colombian ninjas are now ready for the big mountains.

Santambrogio finally got to celebrate a stage win in this Giro.

Nibali seems to have everything under control so far.

You'll find more photos from Stage 14 by Italian photographer Davide Calabresi right here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 15 Preview & Favorites

UPDATE: The new stage profile with the finish line next ot the Marco Pantani monument. 

We didn’t see much of Stage 14 on Jefferau, but hopefully we’ll get to see a good show on Galibier. Despite bad weather the stage is - in this moment - set to take place as planned, only with the final 4 km cancelled. That means that the stage will finish at the Marco Pantani monument. A suiting place for a finish line for one of the biggest mountain stages in this year’s Giro d’Italia.

The weather can still change many times over night but looking at the profile as it is now, I think a breakaway will make it. Luca Paolini and Sonny Colbrelli almost made it all the way on Stage 14 and that was despite a the cancellation of Sestriere. I think many in the peloton will be happy if a break can get away early on and with 39 KOM points on the menu, I think it’s safe to say that Stefano Pirazzi will be eager to get away on Col du Mont Cenis.

Col du Mont Cenis - Click for larger view
Other riders who will be targeting a breakaway are the Colombians. They came to the Giro with big plans for this stage and even though Darwin Atapuma is feeling sick, I think Team Colombia will show their strength. Fabio Duarte is getting better and better after his early crash and I would expect him to get in the morning break. Robinson Chalapud is chasing the KOM jersey but after his crash on Stage 14, I doubt he’ll be up for it already. Instead, look to Jarlison Pantano who already have been in numerous breaks this Giro.

Yesterday I said that Stefano Garzelli was targeting Stage 14 and he was, but without Sestriere it didn’t really make much sense for the climbers to attack early. Instead Garzelli took it easy - he finished 20 minutes behind teammate Santambrogio - and I think he saved his energy for Galibier. His late friend, teammate and mentor Marco Pantani had one his best days on the bike on Galibier - when he won the Tour in 1998 - and winning on this climb will definitely be very special for Stefano Garzelli in his last Giro d’Italia.

This is also a special stage for AG2R. The French team have two of the best climbers in the race in Domenico Pozzovivo and Carlos Betancur and they will be eager finally to take a stage win, especially on French soil. Hubert Dupont was with Pozzovivo and Betancur at the beginning of the final climb on Stage 14 and I think he will try to get in the morning break. First of all with eyes on the stage win but also to help Betancur or Pozzovivo on the final climb if the break gets caught. I know Pozzovivo is aiming at this stage and being 5 minutes behind Vincenzo Nibali in the GC, he won’t be the first rider Nibali starts chasing down with a late attack.

Col du Télégraphe & Col du Galibier
Last 4 km are cancelled.
With the new finish next to the Pantani monument, the last 4 km will be the steepest of the climb with an average gradient around 8%. The climb kicks up with 17% on the final 500 meters and this is surely is the place to put in a final attack. Mauro Santambrogio and Vini Fantini finally got their stage win on Jefferau but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying. Santambrogio is one of the best climbers on the steep percentages and together with Betancur and Pozzovivo - and Nibali of course - he is one of the big favorites.

I think a breakaway will make it this time but if not, I except one of the tiny AG2R climbers to take the win.

Favorite: Domenico Pozzovivo
Top3 Pick: Mauro Santambrogio
Jokers: Fabio Duarte / Stefano Garzelli / Hubert Dupont

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 15:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Friday, May 17, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 14 Preview & Favorites

UPDATE: Due to snow, Sestriere too has been cancelled. That means this is the new stage profile. Naturally, the chances of a break making it are now not that great since many riders in the peloton will arrive to the final climb with fresh legs. Still, if the morning break has the right combination of teams, it could make it all the way.

Original Preview:
This is only the second big mountain stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia and we have already said goodbye to two of biggest favorites. Ryder Hesjedal and Bradley Wiggins are now focusing on the Tour de France but we still have many strong riders left in the race and we should be in for another great day of racing.
Click for larger view og the
original profile for Stage 14.

The stage is only 156 km but almost 50 of these are uphill. The first long drag toward the top of Sestriere is 38 km long and despite an average gradient of just 3.8%, the peloton won’t be very big reaching the top. The last 5 km kick up with an average gradient of 5% and includes parts of 9% as well. I would expect a breakaway already to be ahead at this point and Stefano Pirazzi will most likely be in it.

There are 24 KOM points up for grab on this stage and that means that if Pirazzi misses the break, other riders will get right into the fight for the Blue Jersey. As I’ve said a couple of times already, Vincenzo Nibali and Astana won’t be eager to catch the break. They will be happy if a breakaway can take the 20 bonus seconds on the line since Nibali seems to be the strongest rider in the race anyway. Vini-Fantini will be eager finally to take a stage win and even though Mauro Santambrogio seems like the best card to play, I think Stefano Garzelli will have his saying too.

Before this Giro started, Garzelli told me he was aiming at this stage, and the Italian veteran has been looking very good the last couple of days. He knew he needed a week or so to get into the right shape and the last lumpy stages, Garzelli has been very active trying to get into the right breakaway. It hasn’t been successful so far, but Stefano Garzelli is a rider who always delivers when needed. Furthermore, Garzelli still hopes to win the KOM jersey for this 3rd time in his career and I’m sure he will show himself this weekend.

Androni have been in all the big breakaways this Giro d’Italia and I would be surprised not to see them put a rider or two in the morning break on this stage. Franco Pellizotti is still too close in the GC for the other favorites to let him get away early, but riders like Miguel Angel Rubiano and Diego Rosa are both out of the GC. Rubiano hasn’t had much luck so far in the race and this could be the day he finally shows his talent in the mountains.

Click for larger view!
It won’t be easy for a breakaway to make it all the way to the line, but if Vini-Fantini have a rider in it, I can’t see which teams should start chasing them down. Maybe AG2R if Pozzovivo and Betancur are feeling good, but I seriously doubt they have a strong enough team to do so. Lampre have a great team here and they could try to chase in order for Michele Scarponi to take back some time. The question is if Scarponi is strong enough to drop the rest of the favorites on the final climb? Right now, it doesn’t seem like it.

The final climb is only 7,25 km but it has an average gradient of 9%! It kicks up with 14% right in the beginning and the last 750 meters don’t drop below 11%. It’s an ascent for the pure climbers like Henao, Santambrogio, Pozzovivo & Betancur and if a break doesn’t make it, I think one of the two AG2R riders will take the stage win.

Domenico Pozzovivo tried to get away the other day but he couldn’t catch Uran. Betancur then counterattacked his teammate but according to himself, Betancur didn’t want to catch his friend up front. He might have able to and if he has the same legs on this stage, I think Betancur will be difficult to beat. The strong Colombian is still chasing his first victory this season and after two second places in this Giro already, it’s now time for him to get that stage win.

Also, look out for Team Saxo-Tinkoff's youngster, Rafal Majka. He's in great shape right now and not afraid of attacking. If GC contenders start looking at each other, I think Majka will be quick to take his chance. 

Favorite: Carlos Betancur
Top3 Pick: Mauro Santambrogio
Jokers: Stefano Garzelli & Miguel Angel Rubiano

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 14:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 13 Preview & Favorites

On paper this should be a sprint stage but don’t be surprised if a breakaway makes it all the way to the line. It’s the longest stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia - 254 km - and in this moment the weather forecast shows another rainy day in the saddle.

Mark Cavendish got his win number 100 on Stage 12 and even though the morale now is sky high at Quickstep, Cavendish can relax a little bit. The first 190 km of this stage is more or less flat but the last 65 are up and down all the way to the line. The category three climb, Tre Cuni, starts with about 50 km to go and despite an average gradient of just 4%, it does stretch over 10 km and that will make it hard for the pure sprinters to stay up front. There are 37 km to go from the top of Tre Cuni and after a 15 km descent, the road kicks up again with a short uncategorized climb with gradients of 4-5%. From here on the riders head down a fast descent towards the final uphill section of the day.

The climb to Narzole is uncategorized too and even though it’s only 3 km long, it does have a couple of steep hair pin turns towards the top. There are only 6 km to go from the top and the road is very narrow through the old city in the beginning. The last 4 km are straight out without a single turn and they start slightly downhill. This means a fast sprint if the peloton is still together and it will also makes it difficult for a single rider to stay away despite getting a little gap over the top.

GreenEdge and Matt Goss had this stage red-circled in the race book before the Giro started but Goss is on antibiotics now and another wet day surely won’t be in his favor. Quickstep will probably try to keep it together but this isn’t really a good finish for Cavendish. Instead, riders like Francisco Ventoso and Enrico Battaglin should be named among the favorites. Ventoso hasn’t had much luck so far in the race and he must be eager to finally show off his Spanish Champion jersey up front. Battaglin has been very strong so far - wining Stage 4 and taking 2nd place on Stage 7 - and unless Bardiani have a rider in the break, I think they will try to give Battaglin an excellent opportunity for another stage win in a reduced group.

The way I see it, a breakaway has a good chance of making it today. Especially if the sprinters are not sure about the climbs and since the GC contenders want to save as much energy as possible for the two big mountain stages in the weekend. It’s close to impossible to pick out a favorite for a stage like this one but there sure are many jokers!

Androni have been in almost every single break of the Giro so far and I would be surprised not see them represented in a break on this stage too. Riders like Miguel Rubiano and Diego Rosa look strong right now and both are good uphill and semi-fast on the line. Another rider this stage is good for is José Herrada. The Spaniard is getting better and better as the race progresses and I’m sure he will make it into a winning break before this race is over. This stage reminds me of the stage to Falzes last year, where a break - with Herrada in it - made it all the way to the line. Teammate Eros Capecchi is also one of the contenders for this stage. He’s fast, good uphill and he seems to be very strong right now after he suffered from allergies in the beginning of the race. Other good picks for a break are Oscar Gatto and Lars Bak. Gatto is very fast and strong on these kind of climbs,while Lars Bak is a breakaway specialist. The Dane has this stage marked and he's eager to repeat his stage win from last year. The downhill part towards the line serves as a great place for Bak to set in his final attack.

Should it come down to another bunch sprint, I think Enrico Battaglin is best suited for the climbs and therefore he is my favorite. Also, the stage ends near the headquarters of Bardiani and CSF I'm sure the team will do everything they can in order to get the win.

Favorite: Enrico Battaglin
Top3 Pick: Francisco Ventoso
Jokers: José Herrada / Lars Bak

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 13:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 12 Preview & Favorites

There aren’t many chances for the pure sprinters in this year’s Giro d’Italia and this is surely one they can’t afford to miss out on. The stage is only 134 km and despite a couple of small steep hills, this will most likely end up in a mass sprint. There are only 40 km to the finish line from the top of the last climb, Santa Maria della Vittoria but even though it has parts of 14%, the sprinters should be able to make it back to the peloton.

John Degenkolb is already out of the race and that mean Argos-Shimano probably won’t line up their leadout train as they have done in the previous sprint stages. This gives more room for GreenEdge and Cannondale to take the front but the many sharp turns in the last 10 km will make it difficult to control the sprint. The final kilometer is straight out and if Quickstep manage to hit the front with Trentin and Steegmans here, no one will pass Mark Cavendish before the line.

Elia Viviani seems to be targeting the Red Jersey - hence his attack on the mountain stage the other day - and he’s been very consistent in the sprints so far. The bendy run-in isn’t exactly in his favor but if he can keep the wheel of Cavendish, I think he will make Top3 again and pass Cadel Evans. Still, if Mark Cavendish ends in front of Viviani - in Top3 - he will take the Red Jersey from Evans.

If anyone is to beat Mark Cavendish I think it will be Nacer Bouhanni. The French Champion seems to be back in shape again and he finished very fast on Stage 6. FDJ messed up their leadout on this stage and that cost Bouhanni at least a podium spot. I’m sure Bouhanni and the team are very eager to make up for that, and if Bouhanni manages to get on Cavendish’s wheel - or whoever ends up having the final lead out - he will be very difficult to keep behind.

As I said the last time we had a mass sprint, it’s very difficult to pick a joker since all the sprinters have a solid chance of Top3. I picked the yYoung Colombian Edwin Avila and he delivered as expected. I think Avila will make Top10 this time but to picker another joker, I’ll say Robert Hunter. Despite Hesjedal’s downfall, the moral must be good at Garmin after Navardauskas’ impressive stage win and with a little bit of luck, Hunter might even make podium Stage 12. He hasn’t been lucky so far and he’s been making mistakes of leaving too much room in front of him in the sprints. Guys like Ferrari and Gavazzi will always try to exploit these rooms but if Hunter manages to stay close to the right wheel, he should have a chance of making a good result.

Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Top3 Pick: Nacer Bouhanni
Joker: Robert Hunter

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GCN, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 12:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 11 Preview & Favorites

Last year’s winner, Ryder Hesjedal, didn’t live up the promising riding we saw in the first week and he’s now out of the GC, losing more than 20 minutes on Stage 10. Bradley Wiggins is still in the mix but yet again, the Tour de France winner couldn’t follow the best uphill. Gesink lost about a minute, which was expected but so did Scarponi and that was a little surprise.

Before the Giro started, Cadel Evans said that he still aims at winning the Tour de France this year, and therefore I didn’t count him in as a serious contender for the GC. I still doubt that any rider can dig deep in the last week of this race and still have a chance of winning the Tour a few months later, and if Cadel stays up front the rest of the race, I’m sure he will end up assisting TJ again in the Tour.

Anyway, let’s take a look at Stage 11. It’s another day in the mountains, but the climbs aren’t nearly as steep as on Stage 10. Despite a short uphill section in the beginning, the first 70 km are downhill. From here on the riders slowly start on the category 2 climb, Sella Ciampigotto. With an average gradient of just 4.4%, this climb may not sound difficult but it does take the riders up in 1700 meters above level and the ascent is almost 30 km. Astana will most likely set a comfortable pace in the peloton but if a team like Vini-Fantini manage to miss the big break again, they might go to the front and crank up the speed in order to minimize the gap.

The final climb to Vajont
Click for larger view!
There are still 55 km to the beginning of the final climb from the top of Sella Ciampigotto and luckily, the weather forecast shows dry roads on the 20 km descent. The stage ends in Vajont and the final 7 km are uphill. It’s another category 2 climb and the average gradient is just 5.2%. Still the climb does kick up with 7% the last 1.5 km before the final 400 meters are downhill toward the line.

The big break wasn’t strong enough to make in on Stage 10 but since the climbs aren’t as steep this time, I suspect a break will make it. Again, Astana will be happy to let the 20 bonus seconds go to a rider down the GC and I doubt BMC have the team to chase back a break in order for Evans to win the stage. That being said, if it does come down to the favorites, Evans seems to be the best pick right now. Either him or Carlos Betancur. The strong Colombian has taken 2nd place two days in row now and he definitely has the kick to drop the rest on the steeper part towards the top of the final climb.

Team Colombia missed the break on Stage 10 and I think they will be eager to take revenge on Stage 11. Chalapud and Pantano had a quiet day in the peloton and both should be ready to attack from a far again. Chalapud is chasing the KOM jersey and I expect both him and Pirazzi to make the morning break and take points on Sella Ciampigotto. Vini Fantini have lost a couple of stages in this race already and I think they will do whatever they can do get into the morning break. Di Luca, Rabottini & Garzelli are all out of the GC and especially Garzelli seems to be getting into shape now. He tried to get into the morning break the other day and even though he hasn’t showed much yet, I’m sure we will see him in the second part of the race.

Another good breakaway contender for this stage is Pieter Weening. He is the now out of the GC and favorites can let him get away without worrying. Weening is solid on the climbs, he even turned out to be among the best in Pais Vasco, and he’s strong on the descents as well. These kind of gradients are good for Weening and with the last 400 meters slightly downhill, he seems to be a good joker for this stage. The same goes for his teammate Christian Meier.

Favorite: Carlos Betancur
Top3 Pick: Cadel Evans
Jokers: Pieter Weening & Stefano Garzelli

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GNC, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 11:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Monday, May 13, 2013

Giro d’Italia: Stage 10 Preview & Favorites

It’s time for the Twitter Stage of this year’s Giro d’Italia. This is the first real mountain stage of the race and celebrating the first finish ever on Altopiano del Montasio, the Giro organizers have painted 200 tweets on the final kilometers towards the line. The riders will be cheered for from all possible angles on this stage and we should be in for quite a show.

Altopiano del Montasio is 10.9 km and has an average gradient of 7.8%. The climb kicks up with parts of 20% near the top, but the final kilometer is almost flat. A bad day on this climb will cost you minutes, but we shouldn’t see that big of a difference between the favorites.

Astana are now the new commander of the Giro and it will be interesting to see if they will let the Pink Jersey go to a breakaway or work hard to defend it. Vincenzo Nibali has never had such a strong team to back him up as he has now, but there is still a long way to Brescia. It takes a lot of energy out of a team to defend the leader’s jersey and the Giro is now only getting started for real. Also, with 20 bonus seconds on the line, Astana will be happy to see a breakaway take the stage win. I doubt they will be working hard in front, unless another GC contender get in trouble.

This is another day with important KOM points on the menu and Stefano Pirazzi will most likely try to get in the morning break again to reach the top of Passo Cason Di Lanza among the first riders. It’s still early in the race and it only takes today to get right back in the KOM competition. There are 15 points to the first rider on top of each of the two climbs and right now Pirazzi only has 38 points in total. The Colombians have been very active in this race already but we are still to see their real strength. Now we are entering their terrain and a morning break without a least one of the strong Colombian climbers will be a big surprise.

Darwin Atapuma has been quiet so far in the race, but it hasn’t been his kind of terrain yet. He showed in the time trial that his climbing legs are working just fine when he passed De Greef on the uphill section after the Belgian previously had caught Atapuma on the flat part. Atapuma lives in 3200 meters above sea level in Colombia and as the Giro for the first time this year gets up in 1500 meters, Atapuma will start to feel at home. Together with Fabio Duarte, Team Colombia have two very strong contenders for this stage.

Another rider who will feel at home in this stage is Franco Pellizotti. Not because he lives in the heights but because he’s born in the area. Pellizotti knows the final climb like nobody else in this Giro and he’s eager to give his home crowd something to cheer for. Last year he won the Italian Championship and winning this stage on home soil, in ‘il tricolore’, is the biggest goal for Franco Pellizotti this year.

If it comes down to the big GC riders on the final climb, Mauro Santambrogio and Domenico Pozzovivo are my favorites. The two tiny climbers are great on the steep parts. Santambrogio are still very much in the GC fight but he’s been in-shape for a long time and if he fades towards the end of this Giro, he needs to win a stage soon. Pozzovivo is 4 minutes down in the GC and actually, that’s a little bit better than expected, taking a team time trial and a long individual time trial into consideration. It shows that Pozzovivo is strong right now and with only 53 kg, he’s practically flying on the steep parts.

Another tiny climber who I think can do well in this stage is a former teammate of Pozzovivo. Gianluca Brambilla started out this Giro with GC ambition, but an early crash quickly put an end to that. It has taken Brambilla a while to get ready again, but now he seems to be feeling good on the bike. He was in the first breakaway on Stage 9 and I’m sure he will be eager to get away on this stage too. Brambilla is more than one hour behind Vincenzo Nibali in the overall classification and the favorites won’t give him many thoughts should he be in a break.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite with a breakaway having good chances of succeeding but if it comes down the GC contenders, I think Domenico Pozzovivo will attack from a far and take the win.

Favorite: Domenico Pozzovivo
Top3 Pick: Mauro Santambrogio
Jokers: Darwin Atapuma / Franco Pellizotti / Gianluca Brambilla

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GNC, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 10:

For live coverage of the stage check out

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Giro d'Italia: Stage 9 Preview & Favorites

This stage looks like a dress rehearsal for the World Championship in Florence later this year and like Stage7, this one has ‘breakaway’ written on its forehead. The route takes place in Giovanni Visconti’s backyard and with four categorized climbs, the Italian will be eager to both keep his KOM jersey and win the stage. As always, it’s difficult to talk about favorites for stages like this one but to me, Giovanni Visconti is the man to beat.

Vini-Fantini put in an amazing amount of work on Stage 7, but instead of closing the rest of the gap - they got it down form 7 min to 1½ min - they attacked with Taborre who already had been working in front of the peloton. Not exactly the smartest tactical choice by Luca Scinto’s team but I’m sure they are now ready for revenge. Danilo Di Luca, Mauro Santambrogio and Matteo Rabottini are all very good on these kind of stages and especially Di Luca looks very strong right now.

The last climb of the stage, Fiesole - which is also on the World Champions course - is only 2.9 km short but its average gradient of 5.7% and 11% in the beginning will serve as an excellent place to attack. There are only 10 km to go from the top of Fiesole and it’s a technical run-in to the line from here. The last 1700 meters kick up with 3% and after three tough days in the saddle, it’s important to have something left in tank for the final meters.

I picked Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez as my joker for Stage 7, but since Emanuelle Sella made the break rather quickly, Rubiano never got to place his hand. Instead, he has been waiting for this stage and I’m sure he will be eager to finally make the right breakaway. Rubiano is very strong uphill and he’s fast on the line too. The stage he won in the Giro last year is similar to this one and since Androni seem to be represented in every breaks this year, the chances of Rubiano hitting the right break are not bad at all.

Stefano Pirazzi is another good joker for this stage. He’s targeting the KOM jersey and with the four KOM sprints on the menu, Pirazzi knows this is a great day to attack. He hasn’t had much luck with his late attack so far in the race, but now he’s 7:49 down in the GC and no longer an imminent threat to the Pink Jersey. Still, Pirazzi needs to get away alone in order to win this stage since his not very fast in a sprint. Bardiani also have Enrico Battaglin, should the break be caught, and if they don’t manage to put a man up front, we will see them work hard for the Young Italian.

Many will be looking forward to the rest day on Monday but I doubt we will get a quite stage to watch. There are still plenty of opportunities to attack and with Bradley Wiggins having troubles on the descents, surely his rivals need to see if they can take even more time on him before the mountains. I doubt Vini-Fantini will miss the break this time and if they, Androni and Bardiani all get a man in the morning break, it will most likely make it to the line.

Also, look out for Eros Capecchi. He came to the Giro with big ambitions, but allergy problems knocked him out early in the race. The last couple of days have been better for him and this is a stage he has been targeting for a while. Capecchi is good uphill, uphill and he's fast. If he's having a good day, he could very well end up giving Movistar their second stage win in a row. 

Favorite: Giovanni Visconti
Top3 Pick: Danilo Di Luca
Jokers: Miguel Angel Rubiano Chaves / Stefano Pirazzi / Eros Capecchi

I promised you something extra for the Giro previews this year and here it is. In collaboration with GNC, you’ll find a short video preview of each stage of the race. Here is Stage 9:

For live coverage of the stage check out